Companies & Organizations
New York Women’s Foundation
NY Lawyers for the Public Interest
Standard & Poor’s
Capital Group International
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Legal Services of New York
New York Foundation
The New School
Venues/events my speakers have presented in: Lincoln Center; Carnegie Hall; the Academy Awards; grand ballroom Waldorf Astoria; Fordham Law School; Chelsea Film Festival; Mandarin Oriental Hotel; Benjamin Cordozo Law School; Mariott Marquis in Times Square; Temple Emanu-el; The St. Regis (SF); and in board rooms in LA, Chicago, New York, Toronto, London, Tokyo, and Paris. They have shared the stage with: Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan; President Bill Clinton; President Hamid Karzai; Wonderful Tom Brokaw; Christiane Amanpour; General Tommy Franks; Kati Marton; Lynn Nottage ; & the late Gov. Ann Williams and George Plimpton.
Three Client Stories
Each person I work with brings meaning to me, just as their stories are crucial to them. Here are three:
During the ten years that I consulted for the International Rescue Committee, I met hundreds of innocent, kind-hearted victims of horrifying war crimes. It’s an honor to help them tell their stories. They are not easy to hear.
Dina was a young widow in her early 30’s, with two little children. Terrorists in Baghdad had killed her beloved husband, and she fled Iraq. I met her four months after she arrived in the US, when I coached her to give the keynote speech for an IRC fundraising event at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
She’d never given a speech before, not in Arabic and not in English. Arab women don’t speak in public. It was an intense situation and she knew the stakes were high. We had little time to prepare but her English was excellent (she’d been an interpreter for the US military) and she was willing to tell her story.
We talked about what happened to her. I had to ask some tough questions because I had no earthly idea of what she’d seen and survived. At times she cried, at others, I did. We distilled her situation down to a five-minute piece, which we wrote together. We were permitted to use just two slides, for added color. One was a sunset shot of Baghdad before the war, and the other was a photo of Dina and her husband smiling so sweetly at the camera, it made your heart drop.
Dina understood that she would get one chance to deliver her speech and she had to make the most of it, no matter what. If she forgot a line or felt too emotional she would simply have to prevail. We rehearsed right up until she had to go onstage; then Tom Brokaw introduced her and she was on.
What the audience saw was a miracle. She stepped into the spotlight and was literally transformed by the act. She was mesmerizing and magnificent. People were moved to tears, and then to cheers when she finished. The minute she stepped off-stage, well-wishers mobbed her. She looked radiant.
Dina wrote to me a few weeks later, to report that the experience changed how she sees herself. She then began speaking at other programs and events and today has a well-deserved reputation for being an excellent motivational speaker.
Drew came to me because his anxiety about appearing on/camera, which was a regular part of his job, was taking on a life of its own. He was a physician, and frequently asked to comment on breaking medical news, by a major television network. He never knew when he would be speaking so he couldn’t prepare in advance. Drew had to be able to improvise with the camera rolling, something he never got used to. The added technical burden of being recorded in an isolated camera booth, never getting to actually see the other commentators, only made him feel more disconnected. Finally, the network told him that he was coming across as too rigid and bland and to get some help.
Stage fright is something I have plenty of experience with, so I understood him. It’s a terrifying free fall of public exposure and helplessness. It can be so unbearable that people will do any number of things to mask it, but I believe it’s best dealt with head-on. Once done, it never again has power over you.
Drew was willing to look at himself and to analyze why he was feeling fear. His knowledge of medicine was impressive and he looked good on-camera, a combination that got him the job in the first place. However, he’d never had training for this, and didn’t think to ask for it.
He’d made a common mistake in thinking that because he knew a lot about his field, that he should be able to discuss it freely and in any venue. He didn’t know how to prepare, and consequently had the rude surprise of suddenly being tongue-tied during an interview. Over time, he was inadvertently creating the very situation he wished to avoid, because all he could think about was making mistakes.
As he came to understand why the fear developed, we also focused on preparation and technique. We practiced with me lobbing questions at him, first about medicine and then about anything. He worked diligently and was able to shift his negative perception of being on-camera. He learned how to control his emotions, and today is relaxed, engaging and clearly having a blast whenever I catch him on TV.
Clarissa is a senior partner in a reputable Wall Street law firm, where she received some public speaking coaching. She described herself as an OK presenter, but after turning fifty, she decided she wanted more. She wanted to be exceptional.
Over the years, she’d cobbled together something of a system for prepping to speak in pubic, but it wasn’t capitalizing on her singular talents…she’s witty, thorough and whip-smart. She was trying to give her audiences more data than they could process, at the cost of leaving out her personal insights or explaining her thinking. We analyzed her use of prep time, and saw that she was spending most of it on gathering information. She was a research junkie. That was her comfort zone and she spent all of her time there. It didn’t mask her need to get sharp about why she was speaking.
We switched that up, and focused on shaping a strong message and rehearsing it effectively. We cut down on the length of time she typically spoke, which forced her to be concise. She loved bringing more of her own personality into the mix, something she’d previously worried was “unprofessional.” Now she owns it for the asset that it is, has fun during delivery, and is glad she didn’t settle for just OK. She was clearly ready for her close-up.